Feature: Dr. Natalie Slawinski

Dr-Natalie-SlawinskiThe potential importance of social enterprise to rural Newfoundland and Labrador is highlighted in Dr. Natalie Slawinski’s research, Building resilient rural communities through social entrepreneurship: Lessons from Shorefast on Fogo Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Shorefast was started as a charitable organization in 2006 by siblings Zita, Alan and Anthony Cobb with the aim of building economic and cultural resilience on Fogo Island.

It runs three social businesses — Fogo Island Inn, Fogo Island Shop and Fogo Island Fish — that reinvest surpluses into the communities on Fogo Island.

“There were clear indicators that Shorefast-owned businesses have been really important to the GDP of Fogo Island, so there you have evidence that social enterprises can contribute meaningfully to a community’s economy,” Dr. Slawinski said.

The research team identified five lessons from Shorefast’s success that the researchers are sharing using the acronym PLACE, which stands for:

  1. Promote community champions;
  2. Link insiders and outsiders to share knowledge and build expertise;
  3. Assess local capacities;
  4. Convey compelling narratives that build morale and support community development; and
  5. Engage both/and thinking, which brings together seemingly contradictory goals, such as community and business objectives, rather than forcing a choice between them.

Dr. Slawinski says the principles underlying the model may be useful to communities elsewhere in the province. For example, in early 2019, the research team held a workshop in Norris Point, where the discussion was “lively and studded with personal stories.”

“I think community leaders can inject their own energy and engage in smaller scale, but very impactful, projects and initiatives in their communities. You can look at the lessons and use those as guiding principles for what you as a community champion can do in your particular community given your own specific challenges.”

The PLACE model highlights the importance of community champions gathering to share ideas so they can continue to leverage a social enterprise mindset. With this mindset, they harness the tools of business in a way that makes their communities, and indeed the whole province, stronger.

The research team also included Dr. Blair Winsor and Dr. John Schouten from the business faculty, Dr. Mark Stoddart from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. Wendy Smith from the University of Delaware, and Diane Hodgins from Shorefast.
The project is funded through a Partnership Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

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